Thursday, October 22, 2009

Road trip to Lungi

I'm back from Lungi, arrived in Mapaki yesterday evening just as it was getting dark (around 6:30). We had a pretty uneventful journey. Our Canadian visitors, Jane Gloor and Nancy and Vaughn Wellington all arrived safe and sound on Tuesday night. We stayed in Lungi that night and took the 8 am ferry over to Freetown the next day. I enjoyed taking the ferry in the daytime (when I took it before when I arrived it was night) - great views of Freetown from the water. I'll post a few pictures. Had breakfast in Freetown (mmmm, Bliss cafe!) and picked up some groceries (among the treats I got are jam, raisins and some chocolate! No nutella though, which I was disappointed about), then met with cdpeace Board Chairman Peter Koroma and headed out of town.

I haven't been in Freetown since I arrived. It's so crowded and the traffic is so terrible. Makeni seems very pleasant and quiet by comparison :-) I did find that Freetown seemed much more manageable to me this time around than the first time I was there though, which I think is a sign that I'm adjusting well to life here. Looking forward to spending some more time in the big city with Chris when he's here.

I have heard from other ex-pats about having trouble at checkpoints on the road to and from Freetown, but we were waved through every time, probably because we were driving in the cdpeace vehicle rather than taking public transport. The journey was a little crowded with 6 passengers and the driver and 6 suitcases (some full of medical supplies to be donated to clinics here) and a few bags all packed into the truck, but we survived just fine :-)

Yesterday we stopped in Mayagba to meet the community there before coming to Mapaki. There was a death in the village just the day before, so rather than doing a big community welcome, TMT asked us to come and "greet the burial" - paying our respects to the community who were gathered because of the burial. It was a neat experience to participate in that. You give your greetings and show support by giving a small amount of money (we gave Le 20,000) or if they didn't have money, many people would bring food items. The villagers were very surprised that we white people came and participated in their custom, but I think they appreciated it.

After visiting Mayagba we made our way to Mapaki. In Mapaki the new guests settled in and had some supper. Then there was a big community welcome for them, with dancing and drumming of course. Today they are just resting and exploring Mapaki.

It's been neat to receive people who are visiting for the first time, to be the one who knows the country (at least a little bit by now) and can explain things and help them settle in. I remember what it was like for me when I arrived, how overwhelming everything seemed the first couple of days, so I hope that I helped smooth the way a little bit for them. It was also a good practice run of picking someone up at the airport since I'm heading back there to get Chris on Sunday night. Yay!!

This afternoon I am participating in a skype videoconference presentation to Carleton university. This is part of the public engagement activities that I need to do as part of the CIDA grant that funds my internship. I'm a bit worried about the quality of the internet connection, but I'm crossing my fingers that it all goes well.

Tomorrow we are heading to Gbonkolenken chiefdom to visit the school in Mathombo and the clinic in Makonkorie. I also have various other things to do there (meet with the women, visit the other schools, meet with the teachers receiving scholarships for teacher training and do a teacher workshop!). We may stay over night and come back on Saturday, but I'm not sure about that yet.

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